The group known as Finnders & Youngberg not only has a new album out, but also a new name. On Eat the Moon, their recent release from Swing Fingers Records, the group labels themselves as FY5, a name that perhaps reflects better on the fact that they’re not a duo, but a five-piece band. On this album, FY5 melds sounds from across the American roots music spectrum – folk, blues, bluegrass, and more – for a strong effort that reflects their Colorado, Rocky-grass, background.
The album opens with the curiously titled She Wants to Eat the Moon, written by guitarist Mike Finders and led by the lovely lead vocals of bassist Erin Youngberg. It has a dreamy, folk pop sound laced through with pedal steel from Aaron Youngberg. Erin also sings (and wrote) the hopeful, folk-grass number The Day is Wide Open. It’s a cheerful ode to the possibilities of a new day: “The day is yours to take or leave, forgetting time will set you free.” She also wrote What Did I Do, an uptempo love song that finds the singer wondering what she did to earn the love of someone so wonderful.
With the exception of the soft instrumental Old Dog Waltz, which was composed by mandolin player Rich Zimmerman, the rest of the album comes from Finders’ pen. These range from the honky-tonk swing of After Tonight, which finds Erin on lead vocals again, declaring that she’ll make a new start after just one more night with an old love, to the progressive bluegrass of Desert Bluebell. The latter layers Finders’ Americana and folk-influenced vocal phrasing over fairly traditional, driving five-string banjo from Aaron Youngberg, and includes some interesting instrumental melodies intertwined throughout. Finders’ vocals take on a gritty, bluesy tinge for Back Door, a fun country blues number about a man who is tired of getting late night calls from a woman who only wants one thing. Though it’s an original number, it could easily pass as an update of something Jimmie Rodgers might have sung.
Many bluegrass fans will remember the Colorado floods of 2013 that devastated the communities around Lyons, including the Planet Bluegrass festival grounds. Saint Vrain is FY5’s take on the flood, interestingly focused not on the people and their losses but on the river and flood itself. The vocals and instrumentation mimic the river’s rise: a haunting, atmospheric opening moves into rushing, crashing – and yes, driving – instrumentation and hurried, frantic vocals. It’s a neat concept for a song, especially since the topic affected so many in the music community.
In the publicity materials included with this album, the group receives several comparisons to the sounds of classic country, highlighting the use of pedal steel, comparing Finders’ vocals to Lefty Frizzell, and relating his vocal duets with Erin Youngberg to those of Porter and Dolly. I didn’t quite get those comparisons from the songs here, even though several songs do have a honky-tonk vibe. Instead, there’s much more of a progressive bluegrass, folk quality to the vocals and the overall sound of the album, that plants FY5 right alongside several other young groups from the western United States. Overall, they do a wonderful job with this sound, with an especially nice effort from fiddler Ryan Drickey.
For more information on FY5, visit their website at www.finndersandyoungberg.com. Their new album can be purchased from several online music retailers.